Lions’ bid for perfect mark spoiled by all-too-familiar Mustang style
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 1:41 pm
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Dresden got a dose of its own medicine against Huntingdon.
It admittedly left a bad taste in the Lions’ mouths.
The Mustangs spoiled Dresden’s bid for an unbeaten regular season and ultimately knocked the Lions from their No. 1 perch atop the Class 2A state rankings with a convincing 38-6 victory Friday night at Paul Ward Stadium.
Huntingdon (8-2, 4-1) forged a three-way tie for the District 13A championship with the win, though Dresden (9-1, 4-1) and West Carroll (8-2, 4-1) were officially listed 1-2 in the league’s pecking order after tie-breakers were applied.
The Lions will now get a bye week to let the wounds from their first loss since last season’s BlueCross Bowl state title game defeat to Friendship Christian School and the first in the head coaching career of rookie skipper Keith Hodge heal before they host the winner of the Trinity Christian/Booker T. Washington game in Round 2 of the Class 2A state playoffs Nov. 9.
Dresden is the top seed in the six-team Quad 4 of the 24-school state playoff field. (see related bracket)
Fifth-ranked Huntingdon, meanwhile, is a three-seed in the Class 1A Quad 4 and will host Lake County (5-5) in a first round game this week with a potential rematch vs. Union City (7-3) likely in Round 2. The Mustangs beat UC handily in Week 3 of the regular season 38-22.
Huntingdon was clearly the superior team in its much-anticipated showdown vs. Dresden in both teams’ regular season finale, using many of the same ingredients in its recipe for success that the Lions had used to win nine straight entering the game.
The Mustangs controlled both lines of scrimmage, took advantage of a couple of breaks and short fields, and employed the single-wing talents of Jacob Warbritton (130 rushing yards, four touchdowns) to dominate.
“That’s a great football team over there, and you just can’t do some of the things we did against them and give yourselves a chance to win,” Hodge said afterward. “They stopped us like nobody has done all year long, and we essentially gave them two touchdowns in the first half — one with the short field, the other with a turnover deep on our end — and it’s 21-0 at halftime.
“That’s something big to come from against a really good team.”
Just as it did the final score, Huntingdon had a decided edge in every statistical battle.
The Mustangs rushed for 302 of their 325 total yards and had 14 first downs to Dresden’s five. The Lions were limited to a season-low 149 total yards by a Huntingdon defense that crowded the box with as many as nine players — one that dropped Dresden ballcarriers for losses on 11 different plays.
The key sequence of the contest came late in the first half when the host team scored twice in less than three minutes to take a commanding three-touchdown lead at the intermission.
Warbritton — who now has rushed for 1,962 yards and 22 TDs — first capped a short drive after a shanked punt that gave the Ponies the ball at the Lions’ 34, then sneaked in from the one for his third score after a Dresden fumbled exchange that was recovered by Huntingdon’s Jacob Blake at the DHS 19.
“Huge,” Hodge said. “We never recovered.”
A 33-yard field goal by Seth Fields and Warbritton’s final touchdown — a 26-yard run in which he picked his way through the entire Lion defense on the final play of the third period to make it 31-0, signaled the end of the night for the Mustangs’ offensive regulars.
Dresden, which threatened on its opening possession after a 24-yard pass from Davis Moran to Colter Swafford before failing to convert a 4th-and-1 at the Huntingdon 28, finally got on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter on its only other significant drive into Mustang territory.
Devan Raymer — bottled up all night by a swarm of Huntingdon defenders — took a direct snap and finally broke free over left tackle and zig-zagged his way for a 64-yard gain to set up a three-yard keeper for a touchdown on the next snap from scrimmage. A high snap prevented the point-after from being attempted.
Huntingdon reserve Kenneth Pruett provided the final score and margin with a five-yard TD run halfway through the final segment.
Hodge, obviously disappointed with the outcome, said he wasn’t a big fan of the upcoming bye week that would give his troops an extra week to both seethe from the result and prepare for their first postseason game.
“I don’t like them (bye weeks), I’d much rather stay in routine and play,” the coach added. “We had an open date last week, and I thought you could tell that a little tonight. I thought we were a little flat.
“We are a little beat up, though, and the extra week should give us some more time to heal.”
The Lions’ leading tackler, Joey Caldwell, indeed missed the game with a high ankle sprain. He should return to the playoffs, according to Hodge. Published in The WCP 10.30.12